Chispa Calls for Intersectionality with Other Movements
Alex Rodriguez, Chispa Community Organizer | May 1, 2018
Hartford, CT - In anticipation of the end of the 2018 legislative session, Hartford Mayday 2018 brought together many labor, racial, immigrant, and women’s justice organizations calling for intersectionality among their movements.
Intersectionality is defined as the interconnected nature of social categories like race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group. These categories often create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Seeing so many groups come together in front of the Legislative Office Building to call on state leaders to pass laws protecting the undocumented community and giving workers a living wage was eye opening to me!
My coworker Merelys Torres Garcia spoke on her life in Hartford after fleeing Puerto Rico when her home was decimated by Hurricane Maria. She addressed the trauma felt by those who fled the island, as well as the lack of federal aid in helping displaced families receive housing vouchers.
I addressed environmental racism in the Hartford community, highlighting the problem with the city’s waste incinerator which burns a majority of the state’s waste, as well as Chispa CT's win in New Haven in regards to the board of education’s resolution to put forth a pilot program for electric school buses.
Chispa Attends Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs
Anderson Elie, Chispa Promotor | May 31, 2018
Hartford, CT - On May 31, our Chispa Team attended the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs meeting. We attended this event because we wanted to be a part of a diverse group of people looking to make conversion to renewable energies a top priority in our state. This meeting was not only made up of environmental advocates, but also labor union workers--which made for a more inclusive setting.
We broke into groups to discuss what improvements could be made to the Connecticut Energy Bill (Senate Bill 9) that we'd advocated for earlier. The bill was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Malloy this month. It requires CT to have 40% of its energy to be powered by renewable energies by 2030.
Following discussion was based on how we can advocate for cleaner energies around the electric, transportation, and building sectors, Taylor, Alex, and I joined the transportation working groups to share how important it is to secure clean transportation for kids. Our group was in agreement on striving to get DEEP to allocate a large majority of the Volkswagen mitigation fund towards zero emission electric school buses for children in environmental justice communities.
It is really motivating to see the environmental movement and the labor movement working together towards a clean future in Connecticut!
Chispa Lobbies Congress for Clean Energy
Dakquie Jones, Chispa Promotor | June 7, 2018
Washington, DC - From June 4-7, members of our CTLCV team and I traveled to Washington for the League of Conservation Voters Advocacy Training & Lobby Day. I had a great experience meeting with members of the CT Congressional delegation in discussions around protecting public health and advancing clean energy in our state.
In the lobby day training, I learned how to convey my personal story in Hartford and why I believe in environmental justice. Storytelling is essential to the community organizing experience. It has to be done in a way that captures our legislative leaders’ attention and motivates them to take action.
Having done advocacy work in the CT State Capitol previously, there were times I felt like legislators weren’t always receptive to issues affecting people of color and low income communities. Still, I’ve continued on with the help of our team.
Outreach and organizing the community at large is a challenging job, but I like it because I like using my voice to bring people up. Speaking out in February’s Lobby Day for Puerto Rican families and April’s Youth Climate Action Day’s press conference helped me gain the experience I needed to feel comfortable in these meetings.
Our team met leaders such as Senator Richard Blumenthal and Represenatives Elizabeth Esty, Joe Courtney, and Jim Himes. Our team was successful in getting Senator Blumenthal, Congresswoman Esty, and Congressman Himes’ signatures toward the Clean Energy for All campaign.
I enjoyed my time in our nation’s capital with our CT team. I was especially moved by the Martin Luther King Jr. monument. Seeing his statue standing tall and proud instilled hope in me. The civil rights movement he led resonates with me. His push for racial justice intersects with Chispa’s push for environmental justice.
Chispa Visits with Sen. Murphy in Washington
Taylor Robertson, Chispa Lead Promotora| June 7, 2018
Washington, DC - In June, I traveled to Washington with the CTLCV team to speak to the CT delegation about our Clean Energy for All campaign. Our Connecticut team was one of 29 other state leagues who had sent groups to speak with their legislators about clean energy.
Going to Washington to advocate for such an important agenda gave me butterflies. Traveling from one congressional office to another was fast-paced to say the least. I’d say there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals traveling from the Russell, Dirksen, and Hart Senate Office Buildings to the Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn House Office Buildings.
Our group met with most of the delegation. My favorite meeting was with Senator Chris Murphy. I felt he was genuinely interested in what our group had to say. He was polite, asked questions, and was relatable in his interaction with us. Overall, LCV Lobby Day was a great experience and I would love to do it again next year!
Chispa Applauds Passage of Climate Change, Clean Energy Bills
Alex Rodriguez, Chispa Community Organizer| June 20, 2018
Hartford, CT - When the League of Conservation Voters and Chispa signed on to the Clean Energy for All campaign, I was thrilled! Our pledge to fight for pollution-free communities, and to move our country toward 100% clean energy by 2050 is something I believe strongly in.
I recognize that this goal can only be achieved through strategic partnerships and aggressive legislation.
On June 20th, Governor Dan Malloy and Commissioner Robert Klee of DEEP held a bill signing ceremony for Public Act 18-82: Climate Change Planning and Resiliency and Public Act 18-50: Connecticut’s Energy Future. These new laws reaffirm Connecticut’s commitment to fighting climate change on a nationwide level and I’m proud to be apart of a community of bill constantly reminding our leaders to keep environmental justice at the top of the legislature’s priorities.
Why I Organize
Merelys Torres, Chispa Parent Organizer| June 21, 2018
Hartford, CT - My name is Merelys Torres I arrived in the US on November 15, and I am one of the refugees from Hurricane Maria.
I lost everything inside my home because of the hurricane and everything that happened in Puerto Rico. I had to make the decision to travel to Connecticut without a support network, family on the mainland, or anyone who could help us.
It was not easy, but here we are trying to push forward.
I decided to be part of Chispa and to be a parent organizer since Chispa helps the environment and advocates for a cleaner planet. It is because of global warming and everything that is happening in the environment that my island was destroyed by a Category 5 hurricane in September of last year.
Hurricane Maria made me aware that the world is trying to tell us something; it is asking for help. But people are still not paying attention to what the planet is trying to say.
Today I am a testament to that, and I want to help the planet to make a better world for my descendants and other human beings.
My experience at the Red Roof Inn--which is where I was sheltered here in CT--was not easy. We were one of almost 50 families who lost everything. We came with our children, only wanting to protect them and look for a better life to come for them.
4,600 people died on my island, and everyone who survived is here for a reason. I just want to make a difference and help other parents like me understand that we must fight for a better planet for everyone.
April 18: Youth Climate Action Day
Da’kquie Jones- Chispa Promotor
Da’kquie- “On April 18, our Chispa team hosted a day of advocacy titled Youth Climate Action Day. The event was held at the Legislative Office Building. Taylor and I spoke about the pollution affecting our city and how clean energy policy can reduce pollution and fight climate change. Young people from around Connecticut came to this event to call on their legislators to invest in their future. I spoke about Senate Bill 7: An Act Concerning Climate Change Planning And Resiliency and two other bills that deal with climate issues. Before Chispa went up to to speak, state legislators, along with students from UConn and Trinity College spoke on the need to pass clean energy legislation in the state of CT because as young people, we believe our future is worth investing in. Everyone who spoke at the press conference did a great job. I got to meet so many people that also want to help get more laws enforced to help save our environment. It was a fantastic day!”
April 16th: Climate Justice and Policy Panel at UCONN
Taylor Robertson- Chispa Lead Promotor
Taylor- “On April 16th 2018 I was invited by Wawa Gatheru to speak on a panel at UCONN. The panel was to highlight the important intersections between gender and climate justice, specifically, the progressive work CT women have done/are doing to promote equitable participation at the frontlines of environmental justice and policy. It was a great experience. The audience had great questions. After the panel, many people approached me expressing how inspired they were after hearing the things that I said and would love to volunteer with Chispa. It’s such a honor to know that I can touch people’s lives by using my words. Being a panelist made me feel like I was contributing to a large movement and I liked it!”
April 14th: Chispa Speaks On Environmental Justice At March For Science
Anderson Elien- Chispa Promotor
Anderson - “On April 14, I attended the March for Science Rally at Minuteman Park. There were a lot of people gathered for the rally speaking about how important it is to advance the scientific method and acknowledge climate science. Chispa CT was invited to speak at the rally because we are clean energy advocates. We recognize that climate change is impacting our communities of color negatively, therefore, we advocate for environmental justice. I spoke on what environmental justice means to Chispa. Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Environmental justice to me has involved speaking with legislators on bills that protect communities of color, as we are burdened with toxic facilities, like coal fired power plants. These facilities emit mercury, arsenic, lead, and other contaminants into our water, food and lungs.To us, environmental justice would include doing away with these dirty facilities and replacing them with solar grids and windmills proven to reduce air pollution. Solar and wind energies are clean energies, and investing in them would result in cleaner communities.”
March 26- 28th: Chispa Joins Puerto Ricans In Calling For More Aid After Hurricane Maria
Alex Rodriguez- Chispa Community Organizer
Alex- “On March 26, I attended the 5th Annual Latino Legislative Luncheon hosted by the Hispanic Federation. The purpose of the event was to honor the growing power and influence of Latinos in Connecticut. It was inspiring to learn of all the ongoing projects organized by Latinos to better their communities. I shared Chispa’s ongoing advocacy for electric school buses and clean energy bills with many who attended. At the event, I crossed paths with Senator Richard Blumenthal, who co-sponsored a $146 billion dollar “Marshall Plan” to help revitalize Puerto Rico’s economy and infrastructure after Hurricane Maria.
Following this encounter, I attended a meeting with Congressman John Larson alongside 30 climate change refugees staying at the Red Roof Inn paid by FEMA. After FEMA announced it would rescind The families shared their needs for:
This aligns our goal of empowering under-served communities to fight back against climate change, and send a strong message at the national level.
Following this meeting, Chispa CT will publish an Op-Ed detailing the struggles Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islander families have endured, and will call more equal representation at the federal level as Puerto Rico has a non voting congressional representative and no U.S. senator.”
March 15th: Food and Waste Meeting
David Canty - Chispa Promotor
David- “On March 15, our Chispa team attended a Food and Waste meeting at the boathouse in Keney Park. There, we met Herb Virgo, an environmentalist I had previously worked with and was surprised to see. I worked with him at a gardening site in the summertime and in that short amount of time, Herb taught me a lot, from aquaponics to composting. He taught me that big or small, everyone has an effect on the environment and if community members all chipped in, we can make a positive impact on the earth for years to come.
Looking back on this event, I’d like to share the practice of composting with my peers and everyone around me because there is a lot of food that goes to waste. One of the food waste advocacy groups reported that they saved 2.2 million pounds in food waste. If more people composted in America, communities would burn less food waste. It would not only make our communities cleaner but healthier. “
March 9th: Asking DEEP for #CleanRide4Kids
Anderson Elien- Chispa Promotor
Anderson - “On March 9, our Chispa Connecticut team submitted a joint letter with at least 10 environmental allies to the Department for Energy and Environmental. Protection. In this letter, we asked DEEP to use the money they gained from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund towards electric buses, as part of Chispa LCV’s #CleanRide4Kids campaign. On top of this, each member of our team submitted a public comment as well. It was important for our team to ask DEEP to fund electric school buses because we believe that the $55.7 million dollars Volkswagen paid to CT should go toward clean transportation for school children as they are the most susceptible to respiratory illness. The majority of school buses are fueled by diesel which causes the bus to emit harmful toxins such as nitrogen oxide which has been proven to aggravate asthma. Electric school buses emit no toxins and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. Over 120,000 people support our #CleanRide4Kids campaign, and we will continue to advocate clean transportation for children in underserved communities in Hartford and more.”
March 3rd: Get Charged About EVs!
Da’kquie Jones- Chispa Promotor
Da’kquie- “On March 3rd, our Chispa team attended CT Sierra Club’s Get Charged about EVs event because our community organizers, Chispa CT was invited to share the progress our clean buses for healthy Niños has made. Our team has collected over 3,000 signatures in favor of the Volkswagen mitigation money going toward electric school buses for kids. During this event it was really exciting there were 5 speakers. One speaker was from DEEP, one speaker was from the Acadia Center, and there were electric vehicle owners who spoke as well. What I enjoyed most about the meeting was that there were electric vehicle owners who were able to articulate how much they saved on fueling their vehicles with electricity rather than oil or natural gas. A few owners drove Tesla vehicles, one drove a Chevrolet Bolt, and one owner drove a Nissan Wind. I enjoyed hearing about the new Model 3 approaching the markets. CT Sierra Club provided coffee, bagels, and other refreshments which made for a great time. In Chispa CT’s reporting, we informed the audience of the public comment deadline to DEEP on March 9th. We asked the audience to sign on to our join organizational letter asking DEEP to invest the $55.7 Million dollars CT gained from the Volkswagen settlement toward electric school buses. We also invited everyone to submit individual public comments as well.”
My Experience at the Rally for Puerto Rican Families
Da’kquie Jones- Chispa Trainee
Da’kquie- “On February 28, 2018. My Chispa coworkers and I went to the Rally for Puerto Rican families at the State Capitol. Their was about a hundred people there; the purpose of the rally was to raise support for families displaced by Hurricane Maria. At the rally, community leaders and state leaders collectively called for a state relief package to help families displaced by Maria find new homes and new jobs. I was taking videos and photos of the rally, and also people who went up and spoke. Alex went up to speak on behalf of Chispa and the importance of promoting environmental policy this legislative selection. it was very supporting to the Hispanic families who went threw a time with their country that has been destroyed by hurricanes. Also to the families who were kicked out of the Red Roof Downtown Hartford.”
My Experience Lobbying
Taylor Robertson - Lead Promotor
Taylor - “In the Month of February I lobbied at the State Capital for H.B 5028: An Act Providing Funds For Hurricane Victims From Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Living In Connecticut.
The purpose of the bill was to to give 2.5 Million to families displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria to ensure that they have all of their basic needs as a human. The purpose of lobbying is to get your state representatives and legislators to pass a bill that you and other people believe will be beneficial to the people. I got to speak to speak with legislative aides and assisted Chispa Organizer Alex Rodriguez in securing a cosponsorship of H.B. 5082. 11 legislators co sponsored the bill just before we gathered outside the Capitol for a rally for Puerto Rican families. It was intimidating at first but once you talk to one person and realize how they’re human and realize they have feelings too, the fear fades away. I look forward to lobby again."
My Reflection on The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus
Jose Gonzalez- Chispa Trainee
Jose - “On February 20th , I attended the Black and Puerto Rican caucus hearing with the Chispa CT team. At the hearing, I listened to stories from many concerned citizens and the causes they were advocating for; such as investments in public education, including teachers of larger diversity, and more hurricane relief for climate refugees. There was a great energy in the room, I personally liked the fact that everyone had their chance to speak and get to express what they were feelings regarding what each group or individual was advocating for that day. Our Chispa team was there to ask the caucus to endorse our Clean Buses for Healthy Ninos campaign. We reported that Chispa LCV as a whole, has gathered over 120,000 petitions nationwide, and that there are thousands of Connecticut families who want clean transportation for their children. Chairman of the caucus, Rep. Rosario thanked us for advocating for cleaner buses and a healthier environment.”
My Experience at The Rally against Offshore Drilling
Anderson Elien- Chispa Trainee
Anderson - “On February 13th, I attended a rally against offshore drilling with the Chispa team. The rally took place outside the Marriott hotel in Downtown Hartford. When we arrived, I noticed a fiery crowd standing outside dressed in mostly light blue carrying signs that said “NO OFFSHORE DRILLING” and “KEEP OUR OCEANS CLEAN”. One sign I noticed in particular was a sign reading “YOU WANT JOBS IN THE US? BUILD WINDMILLS & SOLAR PANELS”. It was clear to me that the advocates did not condone new operations that would pollute the oceans and harm undersea life. Our executive director, Lori Brown said that the offshore drilling proposal is “an assault on our way of life in Connecticut”. Following the rally, the team and i attended the BOEM meeting where we spoke with officials on the importance of protecting our shores and wildlife. BOEM provided a video on the precautions they would take when extracting from the proposed fuel sites. Reflecting on my experience, I think that using our voice for good is an important asset to our communities and the world. What is going to happened to the fish in the Atlantic? Or the Pacific? One thing is for certain, new offshore drilling operations are a bad idea. My peers and I stand against offshore drilling.”
My Experience Working with CTLCV
Anderson Elien- Chispa Trainee
Anderson - “On January 25th 2018, I attended the CTLCV Environmental Summit. I assisted with taking photos, passing out issue related material, and spoke with many legislators. This is the first time I ever met legislators in my life. I was also tasked with asking people questions about their organizations and goals. As a Chispa Environmental Promoter, I promoted the Clean Buses for Healthy Ninos campaign to many of the attendees. For me, what I think is important is to help kids get clean buses to be able to go to school without having to breathe in hazardous fumes. What is the most important is to the protect the world we live in. This means working together and with our legislators to pass laws protecting air, water and land.”
My Experience Working with CTLCV
Da’kquie Jones- Chispa Trainee
Da’kquie- “My name is Da’kquie Jones I am a Chispa Trainee. For the past couple of weeks, we have been receiving training real life training on a variety of community justice items impacting our residents. For example, we attended The Women's March, The Wadsworth Atheneum for MLK Community Day, and the CTLCV 18th Annual Environmental Summit. At the Women's March, Chispa marched together for the rights of women and marginalized people . I learned how to take photos at the march. At the MLK event I read an excerpt of of MLK’s "The Other America" speech in front of an audience of 100 people. While at the Summit, I was able to help behind the scenes organizing for the event. Plus, I took photos of the audience including legislators who were present.”
Alex Rodriguez- Lead Promoter
Alex- “Chispa CTLCV was invited by the Center for Latino Progress to share the progress we’ve made thus far with the clean bus campaign. Members of BiCi Co, Transport Hartford Academy and CT Transit were alarmed when I shared news of the failing grade Hartford County has received in regards to its air quality, and how 1 in 8 children in our state have asthma. They were quickly relieved to learn of our ongoing advocacy for electric buses throughout CT, as they emit no harmful fumes compared to their diesel powered counterpart, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent. In December, we delivered more than 3,000 petitions to Gov. Malloy himself in favor of clean buses; February is where we’ll make our official request for the VW funds needed to accomplish this.”
Taylor Robertson- 1st Chispa Graduate
Taylor - “My Name is Taylor Robertson I am part of the first graduating class with the Chispa program back in 2016. In the month of January, I spoke at the 2018 CT Women's March at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT. When I got to the march, first I had butterflies in my stomach but the more I marched with the crowd and saw the colorful posters of the different reasons why people were marching, the less I was worried about speaking in front of 10,000 people. After hearing everyone address the crowd before me, my nervousness turned into excitement! I was energized to have audience from all parts of our state hear how I felt about the poor air quality in my city and how the campaign for clean school buses could help rid the harsh toxic diesel fumes one bus at a time. Immediately upon getting up to the podium, I saw many faces that were eager to hear what I had to say about making the earth a better place. I spoke with real urgency. Seeing all of the faces and reactions from the audience gave me a feeling of power and a real opportunity to make a difference. When I was finished speaking, a bunch of people came up to me and asked for photos with me and they also complimented me on how well I spoke. This was the first time I spoke in front of thousands of people and it was a great experience. It gave me a rush of confidence. As a Chispa Promoter, I would love to do it again soon.”